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Schwartz: Reactions from MSU Win

December 30, 2015

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Iowa’s men’s basketball team beat a team ranked No. 1 in the country on its home court Tuesday night, for the first time ever.

It wasn’t even close. The Hawkeyes led Michigan State all the way and won, 83-70.

What stood out? A lot. For one, Iowa’s Big Ten Conference opener gave it a guaranteed quality win, which could be significant to the NCAA Tournament selection committee in March.

Nine other instant reactions from the win:

  1.  In the second half, Mike Gesell looked the best he has since last season’s win at North Carolina. He hasn’t been bad. Not at all – that’s not what I’m saying. He’s a good player. But against Michigan State he found that magic space where talent meets fearlessness. He also sunk 11-of-13 free throws, a gut punch to a Spartans team that started fouling early: with about 2:30 to go.
  1.  Jarrod Uthoff’s shot was off all night. Michigan State hounded him defensively; he committed eight turnovers. It mattered little because he terrorized the Spartans defensively, finishing with six blocks. He has 13 blocks in his last three games. Uthoff did what good players do when their shots don’t fall. He found other ways to contribute. Hopefully in a few months we’ll look back at this game as Uthoff’s worst offensive performance of the season.

 

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  1.  Peter Jok’s transition jump shooting is something else. Usually I cringe when players pull up instead of driving when their team has a 2-on-1 or 3-on-2 advantage, but Jok can pull it off. Jon Miller asked a question on Twitter that I don’t have the answer to: “Jok might be the best transition jump shooter at Iowa since ________?”

 

  1.  If Dom Uhl played his entire career the way he played Tuesday’s first half he’d be an all-time Iowa favorite. He was aggressive going to the basket. Michigan State had no answer for a 6-foot-9 ball-handler determined to score. Let’s see more of that.

 

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  1.  What do you say about Nick Baer at this point? Iowa fans love a good walk-on story. In a night full of electric Iowa moments, Baer sparked two of the loudest. His three-pointer with 9:12 remaining in the first half pulled fans out of their seats. His block of Michigan State’s Javon Bess’ jumper nearly tore the roof off. It’s clear that coach Fran McCaffery trusts Baer as a permanent member of Iowa’s rotation, and it will be interesting to see how Baer responds as Big Ten teams begin to prepare for him.

 

  1.  The old-school Iowa Alumni Pep Band was tremendous (the Hawkeye Marching Band is with the football team in California). It contributed to an energy inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena reminiscent of the Tom Davis era. I realize this might seem like a random comment, but atmosphere matters. It really does. Now if only they had played the theme from “Halloween” before tipoff …

 

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  1.  It sure seemed like Adam Woodbury had more than five rebounds. He battled foul trouble and played only 22 minutes, but his five rebounds were strong rebounds, in traffic, with Michigan State players swarming him. As always, his slow feet caused him to commit fouls, but when he was on the court he didn’t shy away from contact against one of the country’s most physical teams.

 

  1.  It was great to see Ahmad Wagner play significant minutes in a high-stakes game. The freshman, who turned 19 last week, blocked a couple of shots in 12 minutes. Give credit to McCaffery for having faith in Wagner, who has earned the playing time. Every minute he plays now will pay dividends down the road.

 

  1.  The Iowa Athletic Department made a nice gesture before the game, calling for a moment of silence to honor Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s father, Carl, who died Monday at age 90. Tom Izzo has always tried to do and say the right things for his players and opponents. He seemed touched by the moment at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

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